05 May 2010

Classic: Jesus and Losers

by Frank Turk

I admit that this is a recycled post from 2005, but I love this post. I loved it especially for the graphic which originally accompanied it, but somehow that picture is now lost to the internet. It's a fact for which all of you should weep.

You should also weep for the loss of the blog once known as "parents behaving badly", which in spite of its lack of credible discernment regarding parenting was good for the occasional laugh-and-wince combo.

Anyway, at some point they poked some innocent and clean fun at me for reading and posting at a salty blog called "Dad Gone Mad" (aka "DGM")(which I'm not linking to; it's enough to say that nobody reading this blog is ready for Danny Evans).

Here's the set-up: DGM blogged about his son's soccer game in which the goalie for the other team started crying because he was getting sieved, and his Dad then went down onto the field and started blocking shots on goal with him/for him.

To which, I admit I commented something to do with them needing a pair of "big girl panties", which was probably not the most charitable thing I ever said, so point made and taken.

Before I talk about what Jesus thought about poor losers, let me say that I am pretty sure Jesus never told anybody to "put on their big girl panties and deal with it." Not even in the Message by Eugene Peterson. Is that a fair disclaimer? That turn of phrase, said to a stranger, prolly would begin a fight; said to Pecadillo or Zach Bartels, it would be met with the commensurate degree of dogged-faced shame. It's not so much how you say it, but to whom you say it, and the joke's not funny if nobody gets it.

On the other hand, Jesus didn't think much of people who got their nose out of joint for no reason. For example, He didn't think much of people who asked Him too many questions in order to trip Him up and make themselves look good. He didn't think much of people who thought they were morally perfect and deserved a prize. He didn't think much of people who sold pidgeons in the temple, or who made a big show out of how much they gave to the poor.

But did Jesus ever say anything about being a sore loser? He did say this:
    You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. [Mt 5:13-16]
And admittedly, He was speaking to those who have faith, so maybe it doesn't matter if you're a crybaby if you're not a Christian. But if you are, what is it you are showing others when you cry because you didn't practice, or you didn't prepare to compete, or maybe you have have just met somebody who's better than you are?

Are you the light of the world except when you get your face handed to you?

Readers coming here from Parents Behaving Badly might be thinking, "yeah, but cent: we're talking about a kid here -- maybe 8 or 9. It's a little much to get in some kid's face about being a crybaby." Walking in the mall, or in the grocery store, or maybe on the playground, you might be right. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't start heckling some kid who was being a brat. But on the field of play, that's another story.

If I were his coach, he'd come out of the game. Being a crybaby doesn't make you a better goalie -- period. Out. Or man up. There's nothing in the rules that says the other team has to take it easy on you because you're a "sensitive" kid, and asking them to do so is really just telling them that you're an emotional bully: my tears trump your superior ballhandling.

If I were his Dad, I'd take him out of the game. We play sports to enjoy it, and if it makes you cry you aren't ready to play sports. Sports are for big boys who can behave like big boys even when they are getting man-handled. Crying over sports is for bookies who are losing real money when the Cubs somehow muster a winning streak.

That's the advice I give to the parents of the kids we coach: no crybabies -- not on the field, and not on the sidelines. And I have coached the little kids who might be playing sports for the first time ever. Your kids are going to get hit by the ball; they are going to fall down; we want them to win, but sometimes they will lose. None of it is the worst thing that will ever happen to them, so use a little perspective and don't abide drama.

For those of us who are Christians, and will probably die daily either to sin or because of our Lord, we are always supposed to be an example of the kind of savior we have. Jesus didn't tell us to be good when it was easy, and He didn't say that we should never expect to lose. He said we should expect to demonstrate that losing is not the end of the world.

That's a good lesson as we get into the summer months and kids sports.







35 comments:

Jeff B said...

I believe I would enjoy coaching your kids. Great post.

candy said...

As an aside. The photographer who photographed the toddler crying, actually tried to scare the little ones so she could get a bunch of pictures of crying toddlers for her art portfolio/show. Other than that, I think I will read this article to my students who all play sports.

stratagem said...

This was a good reminder of how easy it was for me to be the salt of the earth, before I became a parent. Since becoming one (18 years ago), it seems like it is impossible no matter how hard I want to be!

David said...

The best thing about this post is that if anyone disagrees with you, you can just say:

Crybaby.

Genius!

Solameanie said...

Frank, I heartily object to the "tone" of this post. You big meanie. I'm telling Phil.

(big snicker)

lawrence said...

Boom. Great post.

Joey Phillips said...

"We play sports to enjoy it, and if it makes you cry you aren't ready to play sports. Sports are for big boys who can behave like big boys even when they are getting man-handled. Crying over sports is for bookies who are losing real money when the Cubs somehow muster a winning streak."

Best paragraph I have read this week by far. (Excluding the paragraph's I have read in the Bible this week, of course.)

Deb said...

Good post. Thought-provoking and challenging, as I do tend to the more emotive side far too often.

Must also ask, though: In light of this assertion, what do we do with verses like these:

"Jesus wept." (John 11:35)

"The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering." Exodus 3:7

"The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help." Job 36:13

"The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles." Proverbs 34:17

"I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears." Psalm 6:6

"and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them." Luke 7:38

In addition, let's not forget Jeremiah "the weeping prophet."

I guess what I'm asking is this: while there are times when we certainly do not want to turn into cry babies or encourage it in others, do you leave room for the open expression of grief and/or a broken spirit, and if so when and in what context? Thanks!!!

Frank Turk said...

Deb --

A fair question. Jesus weeping at the death of Lazarus, or weeping at the literal feet of Jesus for the sake of one's sin is not hardly being a crybaby.

As it says in Ecclesiastes, to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. It's somewhat callous to say that a child who breaks his leg playing a sport is the same as a child who is simply a poor loser; the former is not a crybaby when he cries because he has a wholly-justifiable cause to cry -- the latter is just not a good sport.

None of the passages you cited have anything to do with being a crybaby -- they have to do with being right-hearted, and there's nothing in that Biblical principle which conflicts with what I have said here.

Tom said...

Some of the most meaningful phrases I still remember from my adolescence came from my high school soccer coach:

“Walk it off.”

“Take it like a man.”

And when I didn’t do either of the two in practice or in a game…

“Ride the pine.”

Deb said...

Oh thanks for that response Frank!! Like I had said, I do err too much on the emotive side, so I appreciate having the boundaries spelled out! Blessings in Christ.

Becca said...

Hi!
Your blog is really nice--and your audience seems like the type who might serve communities, not just in the church building but outside.

I wondered if there was any chance that you could add www.ChristianVolunteering.org to your list of weblinks/favorite blogs. Basically, for each person that clicks to the website, they average 5 hours of volunteering! :).

We've got a search by zip code, by country or by skill..maybe your friends and readers would be interested in volunteering to serve!

Thanks!
Becca

yankeerev said...

Cent...

I think that you are missing an opportunity to see how God can use a cry baby moment to change a life. You see (beginning long wimpy story warning here)when I was 10 I was playing for Heatherside Town Football Club. We were an average team, but one day as we were to play Crawly Town FC our Goalkeeper couldn't play as he was sick. So, the coach looked over the rugrat team and chose me, little wimpy-scrawny no skills in goal me...to play in the goal.
It was awful, the pressure was so overwhelming and as a result I let in a couple of goals, and, if you can believe it, the other team was "celebrating my demise." So, at half time the coach spoke to me in front of the team and embarrassed the dickens out of me. He humiliated me by saying, "you're doing a fine job Rod...keep doing your best."
I had been psychologically and emotionally damaged by that point so I gathered my bag and walked off the field and went home crying. I didn't have the privilege off a father who would come in and save my day by supporting me as a co-goalkeeper. If only my parents had been there - they never came to games...it was all their fault really, when you think about it - neglectful and uninterested in my career as a soccer player...how could they (snif - brings tears to my eyes even now)...
Well, the next day I had to go see the coach in his home. I was terrified...and I needed a big hug, but rather than the warm embrace I received a two match suspension for walking out on the team. Of course, I was thinking "Who cares about the team, I have been hurt...scarred for life!"
Well, sadly, when I lay my head on the pillow at night all I can think of is that day...that game...that hurt. So, when I get up to preach the Word every Sunday I imagine everyone out there being me that day. My heart is moved to compassion, seasoned with gentleness and careful words and we are all healing...but there have been times in my pastoral ministry when I have been preaching a "lame duck" message, and my wife has raced up to the platform in my rescue and shared in the preaching moment.
So, don't be too quick to dismiss the "Cry Baby" soccer player... There may be some real life shaping experiences going on...
(Echem...)

stratagem said...

Plus none of the examples (Jesus wept etc) deal with losing at a game or some other trivial pursuit (like, for example Trivial Pursuits).

SolaMommy said...

Yankeerev: my wife has raced up to the platform in my rescue and shared in the preaching moment.

Um....are you new to this blog?

David said...

I think he's speaking in tongues. In cheek.

Paula said...

A very timely message as we had some rather depressing losses in the Ohio primary last night (RINO's in, conservatives out) The lesson applies to areas beyond sports (although politics = sport in a sense). As Christians, we have to look at the bigger picture - that God is in control and has reasons we don't always understand. Lying in a heap on the floor in the fetal position isn't a God-honoring way to react in any competitive arena.

Incidentally, an opponent in a race I worked on was whining b/c our candidate brought attention to the fact that Ohio Right to Life endorsed him only b/c he had more money than the other pro-life candidates. He was told to "put his big boy pants on" and quit whining. I guess the colloquialisms are a bit different in the Midwest. : )

Stefan said...

How can I say this without it sounding like pop self-affirmation?

Jesus came to save losers like you and me, but He calls us to be more than losers.

Okay, where's my book contract?

yankeerev said...

David...

Tis true...

Staci at Writing and Living said...

I've hesitated to comment because I didn't want to be accused of being an overly sensitive mother who missed the point. Weeping seems to be my default response to ALL emotions: anger, sadness, happiness, embarrassment, etc. And much to his dismay, I have a son who is a lot like me.

I can say as both the weeper and the weepee, telling someone to stop crying before you give them something to cry about is counter-productive. My son loaths this aspect of his personality. He's finally learned to cry so surreptitiously that it just looks like he's wiping sweat from his face, but if he were ever called out on it, no coach could possibly put more shame on him for this than what he already feels.

But as I thought more about it, I found it interesting that you equated crying with being a sore loser.

I grew up in rural Illinois in the 80s. This means that every high school basketball game I went to had at least one coach on the sidelines in a v-necked Adidas sweater throwing chairs and trying to emulate Bobby Knight. And even though I watched this at a time of life when I thought leaving the house with a Madonna-esque lace bow in my hair was fashionable, I still thought it was immature.

I can sympathize with the weeper because I am one. But I have no patience for the player who slams down the ball in anger because that's not something I've struggled with. (I have even less patience for the coach who throws down the clipboard in anger.) I have always felt that players who get angry were doing it for the benefit of those watching. They want to be sure everybody knows that they are really a better player (or coach) than this, so they'll throw a fit to make sure that everyone can see that. That, to me, is what a sore loser really is.

It seems we reserve our harshest judgments for those sins we do not struggle with. Or maybe that's just me. But I would venture to guess that you are not, by nature, a weepy guy.

ZSB said...

I'm a little upset. I thought that "big girl panties" was, like, our little joke...

Oh well. No use crying over it.

www.pastorzach.com

Frank Turk said...

One of the reasons I love this post so much is that, while it is painted in my copyrighted style of 8-bit VGA bright colors, it is perhaps one of the most-nuanced posts in my blog-history.

For example, I said this:
[QUOTE]
He was speaking to those who have faith, so maybe it doesn't matter if you're a crybaby if you're not a Christian. But if you are, what is it you are showing others when you cry because you didn't practice, or you didn't prepare to compete, or maybe you have have just met somebody who's better than you are?
[/QUOTE]


I think I was pretty clear that someone is a crybaby when they cry for self-pitying reasons, and not for other reasons -- such as a broken leg, or perhaps they are in physical distress, or perhaps they were in the final four of the NCAA in their senior year and a hamstring pull puts them out for the second half. Maybe they're playing in spite of their beloved parent having passed away.

What I did not say is this:

[QUOTE]
My son loaths this aspect of his personality. He's finally learned to cry so surreptitiously that it just looks like he's wiping sweat from his face, but if he were ever called out on it, no coach could possibly put more shame on him for this than what he already feels.

But as I thought more about it, I found it interesting that you equated crying with being a sore loser.
[/QUOTE]


That is: I did not equate all crying with being a sore loser. I equated "crying becasue you're a sore loser" with "being an unfit witness". The same would go for "pitching a fit because you are a sore loser" and "refusing to play becuase you are a sore loser".

What's at stake is being a sore loser.

One who is not sore loser is not an unfit witness. Let's keep that in clear sight.

Stefan said...

I heard this analogy from a well-known preacher, attributing it to John Newton. I'm totally paraphrasing this.

A man living in Boston has a relative in New York who passed away, and has bequeathed a million dollars to the man. The man travels by stagecoach to New York, and a mile away from the lawyer's office, a wheel falls off the coach. He walks the last mile to claim his inheritance, complaining all the way about the wheel falling off the coach.

And this is the Christian on his way to heaven.

Stefan said...

Here's a secondary source (but not the primary, Newtonian source): John Piper on John Newton

Zaphon said...

Thanks Frank; I'lll take this wisdom into my 4 y.o girl's gymanstics practice.

Frank Turk said...

The Newton paraphrase has just reinvigorated my will to blog. What a great brief story.

Staci at Writing and Living said...

It seems my comment was even more nuanced than your post. :) I was in a hurry to pick my kids up from piano, where I ironically had to comfort a girl who was reduced to tears over Nakada's Etude Allegro.

Your point that you did not equate all crying with being a sore loser is taken. And I do realize you were talking about our witness.

My point was how defensive I became on reading your comment, because I view crying as a reflex that is nearly uncontrollable.

And perhaps Bobby Knight is an extreme example, but I found it interesting how quickly I want to rush to the defense of the cryer, but yet I show no mercy to person who pitches a fit. Both are often outward responses to the same emotion.

You see, even if someone is crying because they're being a sore loser, I want to excuse it, because that's what I do.

I realize the soccer story gave you a good segue into how not to be a sore loser, but I found it interesting that throwing a fit, which is much more common, was not mentioned. And I found it interesting how my reaction exposed my own hypocrisy.

But maybe you do have an embarrassing story about crying during Awana games when you were eight. If you do, you've completely blown my analogy. :)

David said...

3 cheers for Frank's will to blog!

Stefan said...

Frank:

The thing is, as often as not, I'm that man complaining about the broken wheel.

But if it gets you back to blogging regularly, it's time for a celebration!

Barbara said...

Frank,

I read the thread.

You are my hero.

(mom of two athletes, one male, one female, who both know that a, there's no "I" in "team", and b, they're not the centers of the universe and they have no issue with that)

Partluck said...

I find the tone of this post mean and quite simply "wasted" words.
This post must be what Dr. Macarthur means in one of his sermons when he says, "If you want to know how anti-intellectual our culture is just look at the public discourse. Look at the public discourse." Shame on you for sounding like noting more than another secular radio host!

Frank Turk said...

I wonder when a secular radio host last cited Mat 5:13-16 to make the point that the way Christians act in public matters?

BwayneM said...

You are growing on me Turk. (I ordered a couple T-shirts a few weeks ago btw)

That's another one from you that I really enjoyed.

Carlos said...

Awesome post. I will make sure to keep my "big girl panties" on in public.

Lisa writes... said...

Great post! We're firm believers in tough love when it comes to sore losers and the fits they throw. One son was particularly prone to such outbursts and we did just as you described: benched him, telling him he could play or not play but he was not going to be a sore loser. Do your best, have fun, be gracious in victory and defeat--in short, honor the Lord in your play--this is what we strive to teach our boys.